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The Naked Truth By: David Epstein
InsideHigherEd.com | Thursday, May 11, 2006


A lecturer at the University of Southern California said she started a blog because her students wanted “more of me after our class time has ended,” she wrote. And they got it.

Diana Blaine, who lectures on feminist theory, recently linked her blog to an online photo album that has topless photos of her near a painting of a topless woman, and at Burning Man, an annual weeklong festival in Nevada where clothing is optional.

After a student who has made a habit of criticizing Blaine on his blog, “ Cardinal Martini,” linked to the photos, an NBC station in Los Angeles reported that the pictures are “causing concern,” bringing Blaine even more exposure.

NBC’s claim of “concern” about the photos, however, seems dubious, as Blaine said she hasn’t heard from any of her colleagues or the university about it. A USC spokesman said that no policies have been violated, so the university is not pursuing the matter.

The undergraduate who blogged about Blaine, under the pseudonym Andrew Winthrop Cunningham III, said that the professor first caught his attention with an editorial she wrote in the student paper last year that called on all men at USC to take responsibility for rapes that occur on campus. “I hold every single male on this campus responsible,” Blaine wrote, “because every single male on this campus has the responsibility for stopping rape.… Because they all rape? Of course not,” she added. “But because only men rape and only men can stop other men from raping.”

Blaine said that she had “every expectation” the article would infuriate some conservative students at USC.

Cunningham said that he and the other two bloggers — one man and one woman, he said — “are all Republicans … although I am pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and so therefore consider myself a moderate,” he wrote in an e-mail. He would agree with the “infuriated” classification, however.

With regard to Blaine’s editorial, Cunningham said he finds “it morally abhorrent to hold any person, let alone the entire male student body, responsible for a crime he has not committed.”

The editorial came amid rape charges against Eric Wright, a Trojan football player. Cunningham points out on his blog that, though the charges against Wright were dropped, Blaine keeps piling on. “I knew a number of things about the case,” Blaine wrote, “which include the fact that women are not generally lying when they expose themselves to public humiliation by making accusations of rape.”

Blaine added that she knew “particulars about this situation through insider sources which I will never name that helped me to have confidence in speaking out against an injustice that I am quite sure occurred.”

Cunningham said that Blaine’s editorial contributed to the “guilty before convicted” atmosphere on the USC campus.

Blaine counters that the Cardinal Martini bloggers “aren’t interesting to me,” and said that she “didn’t write [the editorial] for them. I wrote it for truth and justice.”

Cunningham said that the topless photos are just one part of behavior that “harms the reputation of our school.”

Jonathan Knight, director of the Department of Academic Freedom and Governance at the American Association of University Professors, said that Blaine’s posts are akin to a faculty member writing a newspaper editorial. “It’s the individual who’s speaking, not the institution,” he said.

Blaine said that the bloggers didn’t expose anything secret by finding her pictures. She said they have a “let’s tell dad, sister’s showing her breasts” attitude that operates “in a patriarchal system.”

Much of Blaine’s blog — “The Adventures of Dr. Diana” — is devoted to discussing body image issues, how she overcame her own, and ideas wrought of feminist theory that she can share with others.

To that end, Blaine said that part of posting the pictures was “to put them in perspective, they’re just tits,” she said.

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